2 men arrested in 1995 Encanto slaying

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Crystal Odom

SAN DIEGO — Two men were behind bars Wednesday on suspicion of taking part in the killing of a young mother who was gunned down in a car-to-car shooting at an Encanto intersection 20 years ago.

San Diego police on Tuesday arrested Jamar Phillips and Samuel David Sayles, both 37, in connection with the slaying of 18-year-old Crystal Odom on April 29, 1995, Lt. Paul Rorrison said.

Shortly after 10:30 p.m. that day, Odom was driving near Wideman Memorial Park when a car containing five people pulled up alongside her vehicle at 65th and Akins streets. One of the occupants of the compact sedan opened fire, killing Odom with three bullets to the head and neck.

The Morse High School senior’s boyfriend and her 10-month-old child, Aaliyah, survived the attack.

Over the last two months, detectives received tips from the public that helped them identify Phillips and Sayles as alleged participants in the killing, according to Rorrison. More arrests in the cold case are expected, the lieutenant said.

Police have disclosed no suspected motive for the shooting, but Odom’s mother, Gloria Jimenez, has speculated that the assailant may have been trying to target the victim’s boyfriend over some past dispute, or perhaps was a gang member out to commit a random killing to gain criminal status.

The young couple had seen the sedan the shooter was in a few minutes prior to the ambush at a gas station at 69th Street and Imperial Avenue, and Odom’s boyfriend recognized one of its occupants from school, according to Jimenez.

Though no words were exchanged, Odom — an “A” student and ROTC member who planned to seek a career as a probation officer — had gotten a “bad feeling” from the encounter and left without fueling up her car, the mother told reporters during a news conference last spring marking the two-decade anniversary of the murder.

Phillips, a repairman, was arrested at a job site in the area of Gramercy and Greyling drives in Serra Mesa, and Sayles was taken into custody in the 7400 block of San Vicente Street. near his Skyline-area home, Rorrison said.

The suspects were booked into San Diego Central Jail, where both were being held without bail pending their arraignments, scheduled for Friday afternoon.